Halloween was a flaming success!

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November 1, 2013 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

20131101-170250.jpg


Make Halloween awesome!

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October 18, 2013 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

If it’s Halloween, you know what that means…

It’s time for Insane flaming pumpkin heads!!!


DIY – Garage door lubrication

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October 11, 2013 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

Is your garage door sticking? Is the electric opener reversing? A little lubrication might be all you need to solve the problem.

When we had our new garage door installed, the technician told me to lubricate everything once a year with pure silicon spray to keep it operating smoothly. Life is busy and two years passed. One day the door started reversing sometimes when it tried to close. Nothing seemed wrong; then, I realized that I’d never lubricated it.

silicon

Lubricating the door mechanisms is very easy. There is really no excuse, other than forgetting, to prevent you from performing this maintenance task yearly.

Tools and Time

Tools: None
Supplies: Pure silicon spray, paper towel
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Lubricate the garage door mechanisms

All components needing lubrication are on the inside of your garage door. Unless otherwise noted, all parts are lubricated with the garage door closed.

Caution: Make sure nobody tries to operate the garage door while you are lubricating the components. Be careful where you stand or hold on to steady yourself, so that you don’t get injured if the garage door is inadvertently operated while you are working on it.

Note: Pull your cars outside before you begin lubricating, so you don’t spray silicon on them. The spray shouldn’t hurt the finish on your car, but it will leave a mess for you to clean up.

Apply a squirt of silicon spray on the following garage door components, wiping off any excess lubricant so it does not drip:

  • Roller bearings – there are several of these on the side of each door. You are lubricating the bearing between the shaft and the roller.
    roller
  • Roller shafts – there is a shaft on each roller bearing. You are lubricating the shaft where it is slid inside its holder.
    roller shaft
  • Door tracks – there is at least one track on each side of the door. Some garage doors have a second shorter track on each side. Spray a light coating of silicon along the length of the track where the rollers travel.
    track
  • Hinges – There are several hinges on each seam between the door panels. You are lubricating the pivot point of each hinge.
    hinge
  • Shaft bearings – There is a shaft that runs across the top of the door that has a bearing at each end. Wider doors also have a bearing in the middle. You are lubricating these bearings in a similar fashion to the way you lubricated the roller bearings.
    end bearing
    center bearing
  • Cables and cable drum – the cable drum is typically part of the shaft bearing at each end of the door. You want to lubricate both the cable drum and the cable. This is easiest when the door is fully open and the cable is wound around the cable drum (unlike the unwound cable drum that is shown).
    cable pulley
  • Springs – For springs that are wound around the shaft at the top of the door (shown below), spray the length of the spring (it helps the spring coils rub against each other with less friction).
    spring lube
    If your door has expansion springs that are hung from cables next to the horizontal part of the door tracks (not shown), you do not need to lubricate the springs.
  • Pulleys (if present) – Some door types have additional pulleys (not shown) to help guide the cables. If you door has any additional pulleys, lubricate the pulley bearings and the slot on the pulley that the cable rides in.

If you have an electric garage door opener, lubricate these components, too:

  • Linkages – There is a linkage that connects the garage opener to the door. Lubricate all pivot points in the linkage.
    opener linkage 1
    opener linkage 2
  • Pulleys and sprockets – Some opener designs have pulleys to guide cables or sprockets to guide chains. If you door opener has any pulleys or sprockets, lubricate the bearings and the area where the cable or chain rides.
    opener drive pulley
  • Drive chain (or screw) – All openers have some sort of drive mechanism. The most common drive types are chains or screws. Whatever drive mechanism you opener uses, lubricate the full length of it.
    opener chain

Run the door up and down and you’ll see an immediate improvement. My door hasn’t reversed once since I lubricated it. If the door does not operate smoothly after lubrication, see Basic garage door troubleshooting.

Basic garage door troubleshooting

If you are having problems with your garage door and don’t see any obvious problems or damage, try lubricating it (see Lubricate the garage door mechanisms).

If your door still has issues after lubricating it, check the following:

  • Optical sensors – These sensors are typically installed on the bottom of each door track to detect obstructions and stop the door. The sensors use an invisible beam of light that passes between them: if the beam is broken, an obstruction is indicated. If the sensors get knocked put of alignment, the door will start closing and immediately stop and reverse. The sensors usually have LEDs on them to indicate correct operation. Flashing LEDs generally indicate an obstruction or sensor misalignment. If there is an obstruction, remove it. If the sensors have been knocked out of alignment, you can move them until the indicator LED stops flashing (see the documentation for your door opener for information about how to adjust the optical sensors).

    On this sensor, the green LED indicates it has power.

    sensor 1

    On the other sensor, a solid red LED indicates that the light beam from the first sensor is being received. A flashing red LED on this sensor indicates that the light beam is not being received (obstruction or misaligned sensor).
    sensor 2

  • Springs – Garage door springs are designed to balance the weight of the heavy garage door so that it can be easily opened. These springs can snap. When they do, the door will become unbalanced and heavy.

    Warning: Do not try to open a garage door if a spring is broken, or you can cause more damage. Working on garage door springs is dangerous and some types of springs cannot be worked on without risk of serious injury.
    spring full

  • Emergency release – The emergency release allows you to open the door if your automatic opener breaks or if there is a power failure. If the emergency release is engaged, the garage door opener will operate while the door remains stationary.
    opener release
    To operate the emergency release, pull down on the red and white rope (if so equipped) until the tab in the release mechanism disengages (the door typically settles a little when the emergency release is activated).

    • You can typically lock the release in the disengaged position by pulling the release tab slightly forward or backward after it disengages.
    • To return the emergency release to the normal position, slide the release tab forward or backward slightly until it snaps into the slot. You might need to run the opener or door up or down a bit so that the drive mechanism fully engages

    See the documentation for your door opener for information about how to operate the emergency release.

  • Switch – Some opener switches have a vacation lockout switch (see arrow in the photo below) that allows you to disable the door opener while you are away on vacation. If this switch is put in the wrong position by mistake, the door won’t open.
    switch

    • If you are using a wireless switch (keypad, handheld, or a switch installed in your car) to open your door, make sure the battery in the switch isn’t dead.
    • Most wireless switches (including the ones installed in your car) have a security code. If a switch no longer operates, and the battery is OK, you might need to reprogram the switch.

    See the documentation for your door opener and switch for information about how to reprogram a switch to control your door opener.

  • Control adjustments – All door openers have a bunch of adjustments on them: end of travel when opened, end of travel when closed, tension force, etc. How to make these adjustments is specific for each opener type. See the documentation for your door opener for additional information and instructions.
    opener controls

DIY – Polishing Oxidized Headlights

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October 3, 2013 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

Don’t let this happen to you! Headlight oxidation is preventable!

Polycarbonate headlights are prone to oxidation that limits their light output and makes the lenses look cloudy and old. Aside from ruining your car’s aesthetic, the reduced illumination caused by oxidized headlights presents a safety issue. Fortunately, polycarbonate headlight oxidation is something that can be easily and inexpensively avoided and corrected.

Headlight before polishing…

Before polish1

And after…

After polish1

Tools and Time

Tools: None
Supplies: Plastic polish with UV inhibitor, soft cloth
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

All about oxidation and headlights

Oxidation is a normal chemical process. For metals, oxidation is seen as rust, corrosion, and tarnish. There is no way to totally stop oxidation: as Neil Young said, “rust never sleeps.” Treatments and coatings can slow the process, but if a material is susceptible to oxidation, it will eventually oxidize.

Polycarbonate is a type of plastic that was selected for use in automotive headlights because it is strong and resists impact. Typically, most of the lights on a car are made from acrylic, which might be more resistant to oxidation than polycarbonate, but cracks and shatters more easily when something hits it. On the front of a car, you want your headlights made of something tough that holds together if it is struck by road debris.

Like metals, plastics are oxidized through a chemical interaction with their environment. Polycarbonate oxidation speeds up when the material is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Left untreated, oxidized polycarbonate headlights eventually develop a yellowish haze that looks like frosted glass. To maintain headlight clarity for as long as possible, you need to protect your headlights from UV light, just like your protect your skin so you don’t get sunburn.

From what I can tell, during manufacture, polycarbonate headlights are coated with a silicon UV-resistant compound to delay their oxidation. Once this factory coating wears through, the headlight begins to oxidize. This is a key point: even though the UV-resistant coating is invisible, it needs to be protected. However, since the headlights are on the front of your car, a harsh environment where they are subjected to weather extremes and are under constant bombardment by abrasive particles while driving, the loss of protective coating is pretty much inevitable.

Preventing headlight oxidation

You protect your headlights in the same way you protect the paint on your car: by applying a good quality car wax or paint sealant (I’ll refer to both of them as ‘wax’ in this article) that contains UV protection. This ‘wax’ protection adds an additional protective layer to the headlight surface.

Make sure that you use a pure protectant wax on your headlights and not a ‘polish’ or ‘cleaning wax’. Polishes and cleaning waxes contain abrasives that will only remove the protective coating from your headlights more quickly – definitely not what you want to do. With new headlights, the goal is to have the factory coating remain intact as long as possible. Once oxidation starts, and only after it starts, you’ll need to move on to the next stage: Correcting minor oxidation.

So how long will the factory coating on my headlights last? Good question. So many variables are involved, it’s impossible to predict. I’ve noticed the oxidation beginning to form on the headlights of cars we’ve owned after an average of four or five years. Some headlights remain unoxidized longer, some for less time: there appears to be no rhyme or reason. All I can say for sure is that the headlights of your car will oxidize, eventually.

Correcting minor oxidation

Once you notice oxidation beginning on your car headlights, it can quickly be removed using a plastic polish specifically designed for the purpose that includes UV inhibitors.

Polish and rag

Remember, starting to use polish on your headlights is a one-way street: once you start polishing your headlights, you’ll need to continue polishing them on a regular basis to keep them looking clear. Fortunately, polishing a headlight an easy process that takes less than 15 minutes, if you do it before the oxidation gets out of control.

To polish a lightly oxidized headlight, complete the following steps:

  1. Wash the headlights with car-wash soap to remove any grit and debris on their surface. Allow to dry. If you run your finger across the surface of the headlight, you can feel the roughness caused by the oxidation.
    Before polish2
  2. (Optional) You can tape off the painted areas around the headlight with masking tape, if you tend to be messy. If you are careful, you don’t need to do this. A little plastic polish won’t hurt your paint, if you remove it carefully before it hardens. If you are a wild and crazy polisher, save yourself some cleanup time and tape off the area.
  3. Apply a small quantity of polish to the headlight surface.
    Apply polish
  4. Polish the headlight surface with a soft cloth, using a circular motion. You need to apply some pressure when polishing, but the abrasives in the polish should do most of the work. Apply additional polish, as needed. You do not need a lot of polish, just enough to work the surface – applying excessive polish is wasteful and makes makes it more difficult to remove.
    Polish

    After you have fully worked the polish, there will be a very thin coating remaining on the headlight surface. The oxidation that was removed during polishing can be seen on your cloth.

    Oxidation on rag

  5. Using a clean area of the cloth, polish the headlight surface to remove the haze of any remaining polish.
  6. If any oxidation remains, repeat steps 4 and 5 until the headlight is clear and oxidation free. The first time you polish the headlight, or if you’ve waited too long between polishings, you might have to make several passes. The headlight surface will feel very smooth after the oxidation is removed.
    After polish2

If I repeat this process on a set of headlights every month or two, they always look great. In fact, doing it often actually makes their clarity improve over time.

A note about headlight de-oxidizers…

While researching this article, I came across several products that called themselves chemical headlight de-oxidizers. Each claims to remove headlight oxidation without polish or abrasives. While this seems like a great idea, the whole concept seems rather dubious: if I’m able to feel the roughness of oxidation on a headlight, and then feel its smoothness increase as the headlight visibly becomes more clear due to polishing, I’m not sure how wiping a few drops of a chemical across the oxidized surface will fix the problem. The websites linked to these products present information in quite a sensationalistic manner, leading me to question them even more. The videos that show how to use the products and their results appear less than stellar on lenses that are not like the clear-as-glass headlights seen in this posting.

I could be wrong. If you have any experience that indicates the validity of these products, or if you are a seller of these products willing to send me a sample for testing, please contact me. I’m always eager to learn something new and will happily revise this posting, as appropriate.

What to do if oxidation has gone too far

Oxidation extreme

If you wait too long, your headlight will look like frosted glass. A headlight in this condition is too far gone to be corrected by the polishing method given above. Reconditioning a headlight that is heavily oxidized can be accomplished at home using inexpensive, readily available products. A headlight that is heavily oxidized can be vastly improved, but will seldom look like new. These repairs are not permanent and need to be repeated every couple years. Still, it is a lot better than buying new factory headlights, which can cost over $1000 each.

Look for another posting in the near future that discusses repairing heavily oxidized headlights.


DIY – How to correctly aim car mirrors

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September 27, 2013 by quirkyuncle

Aiming the mirrors in your car correctly is vital for safe driving. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t pointing them in the right place.

Knowing what’s around your car is an important factor in avoiding accidents. All vehicles have areas where the driver’s vision is obstructed, known as blind spots. The mirrors in a car are designed to minimize these blind spots. Fortunately, even the comically small mirrors on a sports car can greatly reduce blind spots, when they are aimed correctly.

Note: Even well-aimed mirrors might not be able to remove 100% of the blind spots around your car. While good mirror aim should allow you to detect most other vehicles, remember that you do share the road with other things that are smaller than a car. Always pay extra attention for the presence of less substantial and more vulnerable objects, such as motorcycles and pedestrians.

A lot of people adjust their side door mirrors to view down the sides of the car. While this makes it easier to back up your car, it leaves huge blind spots. Aiming the mirrors so that their views don’t overlap provides you with much better visual coverage.

good vs bad aim

With well-aimed mirrors, vehicles overtaking you appear first in the rear-view mirror, move into view in the side door mirror, and then pass into direct view through your side door window.

showing mirror pattern all views

If your mirrors are aimed correctly, you will be able to drive down the highway, safely changing lanes without needing to crane your neck to look over your shoulder, taking your eyes off the road ahead in the process. Aiming your side mirrors correctly also reduces the glare from headlights of vehicles behind you: since they are not pointing straight back, side view mirror glare is limited to the time when a you are passing or being passed by another vehicle.

Aim the mirrors

To adjust your car mirrors, complete the following steps:

  1. Settle into your normal driving position.
  2. Aim the rearview mirror so its view is centered on the rear window.
    Rear-view mirror aiming
  3. To aim the driver-side door mirror, lean over until you head touches the glass in the driver-side door; then, adjust the driver-side door mirror horizontally (left to right) until you can just see the side of your car. (Try to keep your head at its normal driving height when leaning to the side.)
    Driver door mirror aiming
  4. To aim the passenger-side door mirror, lean over until your head is centered in the car between the driver and passenger seats; then, adjust the passenger-side door mirror horizontally (left to right) until you can just see the side of your car. (Try to keep your head at its normal driving height when leaning to the side.)
    Passenger door mirror aiming
  5. I like adjust my mirrors so that the top of the image seen all three mirrors aligns. This is a personal preference. After making any vertical adjustments to the door mirrors, repeat steps 3 and 4, to make sure that their horizontal aim remains correct.

Every vehicle is different. You might need to make some fine adjustments to minimize your blind spots, but the above procedure should get you fairly close.

Drive safe!

Note: Image of woman in the mirror is courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


QuirkyUncle is moving!

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September 27, 2013 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

QuirkyUncle has moved to a new hosting solution with BlueHost.com!

You can access all past and future quirkyuncle content at:
www.quirkyuncle.com

If you are not receiving updates that you’ve subscribed to, make sure to re-enter your information at the new website location.

The move to BlueHost gives me added capabilities for developing content that will make www.quirkyuncle.com even better!

Thanks for your continued interest and support! Please, bear with me if any ‘glitches’ need to be worked out during this transition. If you notice anything that isn’t working right, please let me know!

BlueHost has a lot of capabilities and is very reasonably priced. Sign up to have your blog or website hosted by BlueHost by clicking here.


DIY – Fixing a broken battery retainer with a battery strap

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September 20, 2013 by quirkyuncle

The acid in car batteries is highly corrosive. It can create an environment near the battery that damages parts of your car. Here is an easy and inexpensive fix that you might be able to use, if the hardware that secures your battery corrodes and fails.

Battery warning

When replacing the battery in our car, we discovered that the battery hold-down bolt had rusted and seized in place; the bolt broke when we tried to remove it. Due to the structure of the battery tray, I could not drill another hole to install a new bolt, since the hold-down clamp is designed so it cannot slide from position.

A new battery tray for this car cost about $30. While this is not a prohibitive amount, I thought there might be a less expensive alternative that would work just as well. I ended up buying an acid-resistant nylon battery strap, designed for use in boats, for $7. It holds the battery far more securely than the original clamp, making it a safe and effective solution.

Battery strap

Note: While this task is shown being performed on a 2000 Ford Mustang, the techniques it uses can be applied to a wide range of vehicle types.

The procedure in this posting is divided into the following sections that can be used independently:

Tools and Time

Tools: Essential tools
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Problem Assessment

Each car is unique and you’ll need to evaluate which solutions might work for your specific vehicle configuration. Pay attention to how the battery mounted to determine:

  • Can a new bolt be installed?
  • Is there room underneath the battery tray for a strap?
  • Is the tray itself rotted? If so, it should be replaced.

There are many valid ways to fix most problems. Whatever method you come up with must be as secure as the original mounting method, so that no additional damage or injury will be incurred, if the car is ever in an accident.

Remove the Battery

Note: I plan to be cover battery removal in greater detail, with photos, in an upcoming posting. For now, the following steps should be sufficient.

Warning: Always handle a battery with extreme caution.

  • Batteries are filled with strong acid. DO NOT GET ANY BATTERY ACID ON YOU, YOUR CLOTHING, OR YOUR CAR! Immediately rinse any battery spills with lots of water. If you get acid in your eyes, flush them with water right away and seek immediate medical attention!
  • Batteries are very heavy. Batteries can weigh 50-pounds or more and can be installed in locations that require you to lean over when removing or installing them. USE CARE WHEN LIFTING!
  • Batteries can emit explosive hydrogen gas. This gas can be ignited by sparks or open flames. Be careful!
  • Batteries store a lot of electrical power. Do not bridge across (allow connection between) the positive and negative battery terminals with anything metallic or electrically conductive. Always disconnect the negative battery cable first and connect the negative battery cable last.

If the battery case is damaged or leaking, replace the battery.

To remove a car battery, complete the following steps:

  1. Using a wrench, loosen the negative (- or black) battery connector clamp. You do not need to fully remove the bolt or nut from the clamp. Use care not to drop or lose any hardware. Make sure you do not bridge across the positive and negative battery terminals with the wrench.
  2. Lift the negative battery connector clamp from the battery post. Do not pry against the battery casing. Spread the clamp with a screwdriver, if necessary, to work it loose. Bend the negative battery cable away from the negative battery terminal so that it does not touch the terminal.
  3. Using a wrench, loosen the positive (+ or red) battery connector clamp. You do not need to fully remove the bolt or nut from the clamp. Use care not to drop or lose any hardware. Make sure you do not bridge across the positive and negative battery terminals with the wrench.
  4. Lift the positive battery connector clamp from the battery post. Do not pry against the battery casing. Spread the clamp with a screwdriver, if necessary, to work it loose. Bend the positive battery cable away form the positive battery terminal so that it does not touch the terminal.
  5. Remove any hardware that is securing the battery in the battery tray.
  6. Remove the battery vent tube, if one is installed.
  7. Note how the positive and negative battery terminals are oriented. You must install the battery so that the positive and negative terminals connect the same way. Installing a battery backwards will damage your car.
  8. Carefully lift the battery from the car and place it on the ground.
  9. Clean the battery tray.
    • Remove loose debris.
    • Clean acid scale using battery cleaner spray, a solution of baking soda and water, or Coca-Cola. Rinse thoroughly, if possible, or wipe the area clean using something disposable, such as a paper towel. Use care and restraint when cleaning a battery tray that is mounted in the trunk or in a car’s interior.

Install the Battery Strap

To install the battery strap, complete the following steps:

  1. If necessary, loosen the battery tray, so that the strap can be threaded beneath it. For the Ford Mustang, I removed the two screws securing the battery tray to the inner fender.
  2. Work the battery strap under the battery tray. Use care to avoid placing the strap anywhere where it can be damaged by screws or other sharp edges or objects.

    thread strap under battery box

  3. Position the battery strap so the clasp will be in a good location after the battery is installed. The clasp needs to be accessible so you can tighten and loosen the battery strap and should not be in a location where the clasp can interfere with any other automotive components or covers.
  4. Secure the battery tray, installing any hardware that was removed to loosen it.

Install the Battery

Note: I plan to be cover battery installation in greater detail, with photos, in an upcoming posting. For now, the following steps should be sufficient.

To install a car battery, complete the following steps:

  1. Check the battery fluid levels (If you don’t know how, wait until I provide instructions in another posting.)
  2. Clean the battery. Clean acid scale from the battery casing using battery cleaner spray, a solution of baking soda and water, or Coca-Cola. Rinse thoroughly. (Do not get any acid neutralizing chemicals that you are using to clean the battery inside the battery: these will reduce your battery life.) Dry the outside of the battery case: allow it to air dry or use something disposable to dry it such as a paper towel.
  3. Carefully lift the battery into the car and place it in the battery tray. Make sure that the positive and negative battery terminals are oriented in the same way that they were prior to battery removal.
  4. Connect the battery vent tube, if one was removed.
  5. Install any items that were used to secure the battery which were removed. The original battery clamp, with missing bolt, is shown below. I ended up retaining the original battery clamp with a zip-tie to help prevent the battery from sliding around in the battery tray.
    battery clamp in place or broken
  6. (Optional) Apply battery terminal grease to the battery posts and connector clamps to prevent corrosion. This grease is available in small packets at most auto parts stores. It is very inexpensive and really does help prevent the battery connections from corroding.
  7. Place the positive (+ or red) battery connector clamp on the positive battery terminal post. Press the clamp down fully and tighten it with a wrench. Make sure you do not bridge across the positive and negative battery terminals with the wrench. Battery connector clamps are typically made of a soft metal: do not over tighten them or you will stretch the clamp. The clamp is tight enough when you can’t twist it from side to side on the battery terminal post using your fingers.
  8. Place the negative (- or black) battery connector clamp on the negative battery terminal post. Press the clamp down fully and tighten it with a wrench. Make sure you do not bridge across the positive and negative battery terminals with the wrench. Battery connector clamps are typically made of a soft metal: do not over tighten them or you will stretch the clamp. The clamp is tight enough when you can’t twist it from side to side on the battery terminal post using your fingers.

Secure the Battery

To secure the car battery, complete the following steps:

  1. Loop the battery strap over the top of the battery and insert the strap through the clasp.
    thread strap over battery
  2. Slide the battery strap so the clasp is well positioned. The strap should not be in contact with any sharp objects and should not be pressing on the battery cables or vent caps, as shown in the the following photo.
  3. Pull the battery strap tight.
    tighten strap
  4. Dress any excess batter strap and secure it so that the strap does not unravel and interfere with any nearby automotive components. (If a loose strap got pulled into the engine fan or drive belts, that would be bad.)
    dress strap
    If you decide to cut off any excess length from the battery strap, make sure that you do not make the strap too short to grab during a later battery replacement. The ends of a cut nylon web strap should be fused with a match or cigarette lighter, or covered in tape, to prevent the strap from unraveling (Remember, no open flames near the battery!)

DIY – Choosing the correct motor oil for your BMW

36

September 12, 2013 by quirkyuncle

Buying motor oil for your car is not as easy as it used to be. Unlike the past, there is more to choosing the correct motor oil for your BMW than merely picking a bottle off the shelf with the recommended weight that is made by a reputable brand.

keep reading


DIY – BMW X3 (E83) Rear Window Repair

51

August 31, 2013 by quirkyuncle

You hear a snap and the rear window of your BMW X3 slides down inside the door. Here’s how to fix it.

With an X3, the problem is likely a small plastic part called the ‘driving dog’. This is a part that is way too delicate and prone to fail. Luckily, a driving dog is fairly inexpensive (I paid under $50) and takes about an hour to replace.

keep reading


Specialty tools

0

August 30, 2013 by quirkyuncle

Specialty tools are designed to perform a specific task. While some automotive and home maintenance operations can be performed using general tools (pliers, wrenches and sockets, or a really big hammer), these tasks are often much easier if you use a specialty tool that was created for a single purpose. In some cases, you must have a specialty tool to perform a task – it’s just the way the world works. The neat thing about specialty tools is that they are not all that special: once you have one in your tool box, you’ll often find that it works well to help you do a bunch of other things.

Examples of some specialty tools are shown in the photo at the beginning of this posting. They are:

  • Cotter pin puller – This tool is designed to remove the cotter pins that retain bolts and clevis pins. (It seems to have a ton of other uses, too.)
    Cotter pin puller
  • Brake piston compressor – When changing brake pads, this tool allows you to push the brake pistons in the wheel calipers inward, allowing the new and thicker pads to fit during reassembly.
    Brake piston compressor
  • Spark plug boot puller – In some cars, the spark plugs are not easy to reach. This tool helps you pull the wires off of the spark plugs, without damaging the wires, when you can’t get a good grip on the spark plug connector boot with your hand. (It also works really good for popping off automotive interior trim without damaging the retaining clips.)
    Spark plug boot puller
  • Brake box – This is another tool for retracting brake pistons when changing brake pads. Some pistons must be turned to retract them and this tool has pins on each of its flat surfaces that match the recesses in different styles of brake caliper. The square holes in each flat surface allow the brake box to be used with a 3/8-inch drive ratchet to provide the necessary torque.
    Brake box
  • Gear puller – This tool is used to slide gears or pulleys off of a shaft. The hooks on the sides grab the gear or pulley and the center screw applies force to the center shaft, motivating the gear or pulley to slide. (This one seems to have all sorts of uses, too.)
    Gear puller

Specialty tools are discussed in the DIY postings where they are used to perform a specific task, such as the oxygen-sensor socket that is described in the DIY – Oxygen Sensor Replacement posting. All specialty tools are also listed on the Tools page, by category.


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